An international team of scientists, using data from ESA's cluster mission, created the first recording of a gruesome "song" that Earth made when it was hit by a solar storm.
The song comes from the waves that collide in the Earth's magnetic field by the collision of a storm. The storm itself is an eruption of electrically charged particles from the solar atmosphere. The sun constantly sends streams of charged particles, but the Earth's magnetic field prevents those particles from entering our atmosphere. However, explosions on the solar surface can send huge clouds of particles and radiation into space. If these solar storms are directed toward Earth, when they hit, they can disrupt our satellite systems, cause widespread rifts, and affect GPS systems.
To create the snapshot, the team analyzed two decades of data from ESA's cluster mission, four spacecraft orbiting the Emerging Earth since 2001, exploring our planet's magnetic environment and its interaction with the solar wind.
As part of its orbit, the Cluster spacecraft fly several times through what is called foreshock, the first region to encounter particles when a solar storm hits our planet. The team found that in the early part of the mission, from 2001 to 2005, the spacecraft underwent six such collisions, recording the waves that formed.
New analysis shows that during a collision, the front burst releases magnetic waves that are much more complex than first thought.
When the frequencies of these magnetic waves are transformed into sound signals, a psychedelic song is created that is more reminiscent of sound effects from a science fiction film than a natural phenomenon.
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In quiet times, when no solar storm hits the Earth, the song is of a lower tone and less complex. But when a solar storm hits, the frequency of the wave roughly doubles, depending on the strength of the magnetic field in the storm.
University of Helsinki astrophysicist Lucile Turc is the lead author of a study published on November 18, 2019 in the Journal of Reviews Geophysical Research Letters, In a statement she said:
It is as if the storm is changing the tuning of the front.
The researchers said that not only does the frequency of the wave change, it also becomes much more complex than the individual frequency of those times. Once a storm hits a burst, the wave breaks into a complex network of different, higher frequencies. According to a research statement:
Changes to the frontal shot may affect how the solar storm spreads to the Earth's surface. Although it is still an open question how exactly this process works, it is clear that the energy created by the waves in the front of the foot cannot escape back into space, as the waves push them towards Earth due to the coming solar storm.
Before they reach our atmosphere, the waves meet another barrier, called bow shock, is the magnetic region of space that slows down solar wind particles before colliding with the Earth's magnetic field. A collision of magnetic waves modifies the behavior of a bow shock, probably changing the way it processes the energy of an incoming solar storm.
Beyond the bow, the magnetic fields of the Earth begin to echo with the frequency of waves and this contributes to the transmission of magnetic interference all the way to the earth. It is a fast process that takes about 10 minutes from the creation of a threshold wave and the arrival of energy into the earth.
Bottom line: Listen to a creepy Earth song hit by a magnetic storm.
Source: First observations of disturbance of the Earth's dust wave field during a magnetic cloud